July 08, 2003


It may surprise some that I don't share Jim Henley's skepticism about the proposed Liberia mission. Given my opposition to the various half-baked ideas for Congo interventions I've heard, how is this any different?

Well, a couple ways. First off, it's a chewable bite: we're talking a country of limited land mass and only 3 million people. Given the historic peacekeeping ratios of 1:1000 (for pacified countries) to 1:100 (for total occupation), ratios that seem surprisingly immune to the advantages of technology, the proposed 1:600 force that 5,000 American led peacekeepers would amount to seems within reason. The proposed internal force ratio (no more than 40% American) also seems sound. Using Western troops as a force multiplier to create a larger force, one with a built in local auxiliary component, is and remains the soundest peacekeeping model. Also, unlike Congo, mission victory is definable (a peaceful transition from the accused cannibal Charles Taylor*, to any kind of remotely stable replacement government), the value of a peacekeeping intervention is universally recognized and welcomed by all the internal combatants, and the spin offs (in terms of greater peace in the country's three neighbours, two with serious insurrection problems of their own) are potentially huge. It's classic African peacekeeping, with a methodology used successfully by the UN in Eritrea, by the British in Sierra Leone, etc. etc.

Liberia, in fact, is basically the kind of mission that for nearly 2 decades pre-Sept. 11 the other Western powers, including Canada, were basically begging the U.S. to consider more often. One hopes they follow through.

*"Accused" is being kind. Even well-known Liberia expert and Oxford professor Stephen Ellis supports more sensationalist reports that Taylor engages in cannibalism. Taylor once promised to sue Ellis for libel, but dropped the suit rather than leave the country to contest it.

Posted by BruceR at 12:13 PM


Steven Chapman, on the optimal conclusion of a Hollywood actioner:

At this point the theatre audience should depart feeling mildly violated...

Posted by BruceR at 12:47 AM